Making Sense of the Future

Whether as individuals or organisations, many of us are in a state of flux, still trying to make sense of how the past two years have changed our ways of thinking, being and behaving.

As a result, even many senior leaders – the very people who typically craft future narratives – are feeling stuck between the certainties of the past and the unknowns of the future as they navigate this period of unprecedented change.

This experience of change has two marked effects. At an individual level, many people are looking inward, coming to terms with the changes of the past two years – changes to their habits, networks, and skills – and building on them to imagine what they could become. In contrast, organisations and leaders are looking outwards, keeping a close eye on competitors and disruptors, as well as the talent market and reaching for a more dynamic future that allows them to respond to challenges.

The result of these reflections is a huge momentum for change, with many people becoming social pioneers as they map out different goals and work their way towards new ways of living and working. Forward-looking organisations are on a similar trajectory: testing and learning new ways of working, engaging, and innovating. For those who have not yet started their career transformation or waded knee-deep into experiments, it’s easy to feel frustrated and left behind.

It’s important to remember that each journey towards the future is unique – and that there are advantages to being a late starter as well as a first mover. Individuals and organisations that are acting now will become role models for everyone else – but those who are starting their journey now have the opportunity to observe these first movers, learn from their experiments and leap ahead towards exciting new pathways of working and living.

For more thinking on how to make sense of the future, read Lynda Gratton’s latest article for the MIT Sloan Management Review.